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Round table discussions hope to resolve PSW crisis in Sudbury

Posted: June 6, 2019

By: Jamie-Lee McKenzie, CBC News

Round table discussions are happening throughout the province

The round table in Sudbury focused on the critical shortage of PSWs and finding solutions to improve the situation. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

The Ontario Health Coalition and Unifor are trying to find solutions to the Personal Support Worker crisis currently happening in the province.

A round table was held on Thursday in Sudbury, it focused mainly on the shortage of PSWs in long-term care in the province and the city.

Many people who have some sort of involvement with long-term care, from PSWs to administrators of long-term care facilities to families with an elderly family member living in care, came out to share their experiences and to support the people working in this field.

Rick O’Connell has been a PSW in long-term care for about 18 years. He says he thinks that the shortage is coming from the field not being appealing anymore, there’s been reports of violence, heavy workloads and the pay is not much higher than minimum wage.

“Workload is the most predominant issue we come across, the staff are burnt out, over worked, put to the edge, we have members leaving to go to minimum wage jobs due to workload issues and pay is a big issue too right, there’s lots of places that are under paid,” he said.

“Reduce the workload and make it more appealing with other aspects to get involved, because it is a really, really rewarding career to get into and it’s the type of career you can’t do it unless you love it.”

He says when he took the PSW course at Cambrian College 18 years ago there was a wait list for the program, now he hears of class sizes that only have six people in them.

Participants at the round table brainstormed solutions to improve the PSW crisis. (Jamie-Lee McKenzie/CBC)

“I think the biggest issue is insufficient resources… there are other issues too, we have a disproportionate focus on the clinical or medical side of care and an insufficient focus on the social or emotional side of care,” said Hugh Armstrong, a member of the board of directors for the Ontario Health Coalition and researches long-term residential care.

“Partially because it’s easier to count, it’s easier to count when there are falls… those things you can develop indicators for them. It’s tougher to say ‘are you living a good life in a nursing home?’,” he said.

Armstrong says hiring more PSWs is the most important step to take which will improve workload for all PSWs, but these workers also need to be paid better. Recruitment needs to be better, he says, so the people who are coming in are the people who really want to work there.

“The ones who are there are the ones who really want to be, they put up with an enormous amount and they stay, sometimes 20, 30, 35 years, despite the pay, despite the overwork, they keep at it because they love what they’re doing, they love the care they’re providing,” Armstrong said.

Hella Bennette’s (left) 97-year-old father lives in long-term care in Sudbury, she was at the round table to support the people who help take care of him. (Jamie-Lee McKenzie/CBC)

Hella Bennette agrees, her 97-year-old father is currently living in a long-term care facility in Sudbury. She was at the round table to support the people who help take care of her dad.

“My father always looks clean and well put together, I find the staff take very good care of our dad,” she said.

“It’s not that they’re not doing the job it’s a fact that they’re running, you can see them, you can tell, they don’t need to tell us when they’re short we can tell when they’re short,” said Bennette.

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